Liquid Soul Premieres at Area Film Festivals
(l-r) Will Anderson, Tampas Smith, and Allen Phillips are life-long friends who worked together on a film that’s getting selected by numerous film festivals. Phillips and Smith wrote and directed Liquid Soul. Archfern, Phillips’design firm, produced it and Anderson helped with the music and sound.
Allen Phillips and Trampas Smith, both of De Kalb, Texas, were elated when their short film, Liquid Soul, was selected recently by Houston Film Commission’s 2018 Texas Filmmaker’s Showcase, soon followed by Austin Spotlight Film Festival, Fayetteville Film Fest, and the Downtown Tyler Film Festival. Most recently they received word the film won the Platinum Award for Best Experimental Short and the Gold Award for Best Visual FX from the IMDB International Short Film Competition. The selections and awards are not likely to stop there.
Liquid Soul is a Richard Reynolds production and an Archfern film, a company Phillips started in 2010 upon returning to DeKalb from Rhode Island. He and Smith have known each other their whole lives; their fathers and grandfathers were friends, and the families are still close for more than 60 years now. The film is a dream come true for the duo.
“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Phillips says. “We used to shoot films with his (Smith) mom’s Betamax camera. We tried, but we were never mature enough back then, and the stories weren’t solid enough.”
Now both 36 years old, college education long behind them, with steady jobs and kids of their own, they decided it was time to try again.
They picked a short story Smith wrote and adapted it for their script.
“It’s about the seven deadly sins,” Phillips says, “lust, gluttony, greed, pride, envy, wrath, and sloth. We picked the simplest story, the one we could get away with doing the cheapest and with the least people.”
The story packs a lot of action and emotion into 12 minutes and 39 seconds. It’s not for children, or even the faint of heart but it is creepy good. It’s a believable concept, and one not commonly seen before in movies. That, coupled with eerie, colorful, and unexpected visual effects, is why it is making the selections lists of so many film festivals.
The characters in the film include a young man, his girlfriend, and his truck. Recalling a darker time in his life, the man narrates his story of falling in love with a local girl who works at a diner. Things are good until he gets too pushy, and she bails. He broods over his broken heart and then one day while at work driving a tanker truck for a gas company, he decides to sniff some gas fumes. This turns in to a regular huffing habit that takes him into a psychotic world of his own where he begins to plot the demise of the ex-girlfriend as well as her parents and their dog. Not surprisingly, there’s an explosive near-ending to the story and then a turn for the better, albeit lonely, quirky, and still creepy.
Phillips and Smith set out to find their actors and the first one was right under their noses. The man is played by James Griggs IV who builds furniture at Phillips’ family store.
“He’s on the clock, so he can’t say no,” Phillips jokes.
They found the girl while having lunch one day at Front Street Junction in De Kalb. She’s a waitress and her name is Chandler Richardson and she also happens to be Griggs’ real-life girlfriend.
Finding the narrator proved more difficult.
“The biggest problem we had was the voiceover,” Phillips says. “We went through seven voices before we found what we wanted and got really lucky.”
Joe Burke, another life-long friend, was the right man for the voice job.
Phillips says the process of making the film was rewarding but challenging.
“It’s an endurance challenge,” he says. “You have zero dollars, zero professionals, and half of it was shot with an iPhone.”
They got help from a local college and from Brad Davis Recording Studio in Commerce and another childhood friend, Will Anderson, helped with sound and co-wrote one of the songs with Phillips as Artificial Orange. Other music that sets the tone for the film includes songs by David Byrne and Dead Man’s Bones and ends with Lefty Frizzell’s “Look What Thoughts Will Do.”
They submitted their finished film to numerous festivals and got denied by five before the Houston showcase selected them, then others followed suit.
With the Houston showcase — which took place at the American Film Institute in Hollywood — came a trip to Los Angeles where they got to meet representatives from Disney, Dreamworks, and other film distribution companies.
“We knew we had something good,” Phillips says, “and we’re very happy with the results we’re getting and the remarks we’re getting from industry people.
“People in Hollywood are genuinely interested,” he says, “and they weren’t bullshit questions. They wanted to know where we came from and what else we had.”
Archfern is in the process of raising money to make a feature-length film and say its road to success is made better because of the industry connections that came with Liquid Soul.
Screenings for Liquid Soul are scheduled during the Downtown Tyler Film Festival October 11-14 (www.tylerfilmfest.com) and in Dallas and Texarkana in November through the Houston showcase (www.houstonfilmcommission.com).
The screening in Texarkana takes place November 10 in conjunction with a photo exhibit at the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Center. “Liquid Soul” is a photography show based on the film with one four feet high by 92 feet long continuous photo telling the story. Visit www.trahc.org for more information on the exhibit and keep up with Archfern projects at www.archfern.com.